Tuesday, November 17, 2015


The next day at 4:30 pm, Al got Jerry, the master dock attendent, to give us diesel. He came to help with the lines, and directed us to the fuel dock, which was at the outer side of the docks close to the harbour mouth. We were ready to sail in ten minutes, and  started out through the narrow channel between the reefs. The treck was well marked, so no problem! After passing by Tara shoal further on at our port and Porpoises at starboard, we were ready to hoist the main.  Because of six months of idle standing, the reef lines were tangled stif and got stuck twice, but we were able to get them going by the help of the wind. That is to say, we made some zigzags while dealing with the main sail, but we managed in the end.

We got going on our route (190 degrees straight) around 5:30 pm. Winds were steady at 13 - 15 knots from between 60 - 45 degrees. Perfect, and pleasent, since the sea was at its tamest. No rain either, so we congratulated ourselves for avoiding the miserable conditions of the evening before.

This was our second long passage during the night; first being to St Martin in 2012. That had been such a pleasent trip, it cured us from all misgivings about night travel. However, this was our first night sail. As it turned out, nothing to it, as long as the wind keeps its promise of being steady and mild. Around mid-night however, we started to see steady 7 knots speed when wind picked up to 20+ knts, and I got a bit apprehensive, especially when we reached over 8 knot speed several times. Anyway, we played with the trim on the main sail  and genoa, and were able to manage without reefing the main sail. After a while, I could not stay up, and slept a bit. But I could not get Al to sleep at all. I hope it was not because of  any mistrust about my proficiency. Whatever he thinks, I feel much more confident now, as opposed to our first passage; and he had left the helm to me then for a couple of hours. That was scary, let me tell you!

Apparently while I was sleeping, the wind wound down and we slowed to 3-4 knots, and Al had to start the engines in order not to waste too much time. All in all, it was a 15 hour treck. We passed Hibiscus oil rig around 4:00 am, which is about four hours away from the north coast of Trinidad. It can be seen from a long distance, lit up like a christmas tree, and gives a lot of confidence.

When we got closer to Trinidad, it seemed that we were headed into a line of mountains. The island and several smaller ones to the west, along with the northern tip of Venezuela which appear to be connected, and the entrance to Chaquaramas is not visible until you almost hit the land. Thank god for GPS, otherwise second guessing oneself is very easy.

By the time we came to the channel, the sun had risen, so the short passage was easy. We saw that many boats were coming out, probably starting their long journey north, or east (to Tobaggo). So there was some competition in the narrow channel, but nothing scary.

Chaguaramas is the harbour, close to the northwest tip of the island, which is surrounded with a few island to the south and a peninsula to the east. It is not very long, but every inch is utilized by a string of marinas and docks, servicing pleasure and commercial vessels, since it is very well protected from trade winds.

 Customs and immigration is located at the end of the harbour, along with the biggest marina (CrewsInn). Its dock also serves a small ferry. We thought that the ferry should be going to Venezuela, a stone's throw away, looking at the size of the ferries (as well as the language of the passangers).

Doyle warns sailors that arriving vessels were expected to come directly to Customs, without stopping anywhere. So we went all the way in, up to the red and white striped lighthouse, and tied to the dock, in front of the ferry, with the help of some people loitering about. When we entered the Immigration office (again warned about going there first before customs), we saw several people waiting to be dealt with. There was a sign on the wall, indicating that the office would open every morning at 6:00 am, but service starts at 8:00. I saw that it was 8:00 on the dot. The officer was busy with somebody, and the next person in line showed Al the forms to be filled in triplicate. Al got busy for half an hour. In the meantime, more people walked in, one asked the officer what to do. I noticed that the he did not mention triplicate forms, so I made a point of asking him about it, and he confirmed. Imagine, the poor man would have filled one form (who would think of multiple forms), and would be chastised for not doing it right. I think the man was grateful, and started talking to us. It was such a slow process, since the officer was taking the filled forms, and transfering all the detailed information into the computer (with his limited typing capacity). Why? We must have been spoiled by the lax attitude of French customs, where all one has to do is enter the information into the computer (no hard copies), and save! It is the most efficient system available. Most of the other Caribbean islands have started utilizing computer as well, with the Sail-Clear system, which is accessed by one's own laptop or mobile device. Trinidad is not a part of that system unfortunately.

I overheard the officer mentioning that he liked working on the week-ends, to avoid serving  the crowds of week days. Apparently the overtime charge applied on week-ends deter a lot of people. When we were there, the workday had just started in the Saturday morning, but there were at least five people already waiting. We got out of there in about two hours. We shall see the situation while clearing out on a week day.

No comments:

Post a Comment